By Stephanie Rogers.
When trying to lose weight, we tend to fixate on the foods we aren't supposed to eat. We salivate over cheesecake at the coffee shop, eyeball our partners' pizza and dream about cheese, glorious cheese. Instead, shift the focus to the delicious and healthy foods that actually speed up metabolism, aiding in weight loss and preventing the storage of more fat. You might just get so hooked on green tea, yogurt, avocado and hot peppers that you find yourself cheating on your former favorites, not on your diet.
If you want to get your metabolism revving, choose green tea over black tea or coffee. Studies have found that green tea is not only packed with flavonoids and antioxidants, it also has thermogenic properties, promoting fat oxidation. That means it helps burn the calories from the food you're eating while you're eating and digesting it.
That oft-repeated adage about apples and doctors is backed by solid science. Apples are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense source of fiber, so eating them with meals or as snacks can help you feel full longer. Eating an apple each day can also help prevent metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with abdominal fat, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Probiotics in products that contain live bacteria, like yogurt, help beneficial bacteria in the gut process food more efficiently. Low-fat or fat-free yogurt (skip the flavored versions, they're full of sugar!) is a great source of protein and calcium, and studies have found that eating yogurt as part of a reduced-calorie diet can help burn fat faster than going without.
You've probably heard of the "negative calorie diet" which claims that some foods, like celery, take more calories to eat and digest than they contain. That's only partially true, but eating celery can still help you lose weight. It's made up of mostly water and undigestible cellulose, so including it in your meals may help you eat less than you would otherwise.
Did you know that cinnamon is a natural blood sugar stabilizer? After lots of speculation about the effect of this spice on insulin levels, a 2007 study confirmed that a teaspoon of cinnamon added to a dessert helped temper blood sugar spikes. Researchers are still trying to determine whether cinnamon could be an alternative treatment for type 2 diabetes.
There's a good reason grapefruit is so often recommended as an optimal breakfast for people who are trying to lose weight. This low-sugar, citrus fruit contains an antioxidant that has been found in studies to reduce insulin levels after eating a meal.
Broccoli contains two essential nutrients, calcium and vitamin C, which team up to boost metabolism - that is, as long as you have a healthy thyroid. Broccoli is also "goitrogenic," meaning it can slow the production of thyroid hormones in people with thyroid disease.
Lean Meats and Fish
Lean protein from sources like meats and fish can help boost both your metabolism and your energy levels. Protein also helps curb hunger and ensure that the weight you lose is fat, not muscle. Having a higher lean muscle mass helps burn more calories on a daily basis, aiding in long-term weight control.
Adding garlic to meals rich in fats and carbohydrates may keep those substances from wreaking havoc on your health. Studies have found that garlic supports blood sugar metabolism and helps control lipid levels in the blood. Of course, that doesn't mean garlic bread is suddenly a health food, but adding crushed fresh garlic to your meals certainly wouldn't hurt.
While many foods, like those high in sugar, can cause blood sugar spikes that cue the body to store fat, oats and other whole grains keep insulin levels low after you eat. This ensures that you burn calories instead of increasing the prominence of all your wobbly bits.
Taking in fat in order to burn fat? It may not seem to make sense, but healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil can actually aid the body in burning calories. But to get a benefit, you have to replace other types of fat - like cream or butter - with olive oil, and consume it only in limited quantities.
Cayenne, chili, jalapeno and habanero - make your meals spicier, and you'll speed up your metabolism, too. Research has shown that adding hot peppers to a meal, even just in the form of a pinch of cayenne, can boost metabolism by up to 25 percent for three hours after you eat.
This creamy pale green fruit may be high in fat and calories, but it's also packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals. More importantly, most of the calories in an avocado come from monounsaturated fats, which help control the metabolic rate.
Another ideal source of lean protein, beans are chock full of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which help lower insulin levels after digestion, causing your body to store less fat. The process of digesting the fiber and proteins in beans burns extra calories, too.
The all-important fiber in brown rice and its effects on insulin levels are what makes brown rice a great metabolism-boosting food. Choosing a whole, unrefined carb like brown rice instead of white rice, white flour and other processed carbs can be a big boon for weight loss.
A low calorie diet rich in almonds can help increase weight loss, according to a 2003 study. Researchers have speculated that the good monounsaturated fats in almonds not only have an effect on insulin levels, but also give dieters a sense of satiety, so they eat less overall.
Scientists have discovered that eating dark chocolate can actually aid in weight loss. The benefit comes from chocolate's effect on stress hormones. Study subjects who ate chocolate each day had reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which prompts the body to store fat.
Just like the capsaicin in hot peppers, the heat of ginger root can decrease appetite, aid in digestion, and increase metabolic rates after eating. Try adding sliced or grated ginger to your stir-fry or tea, or add it to baked recipes like banana bread.
A study of 175 overweight Japanese men and women found that acetic acid in vinegar may "switch on" genes that release proteins which break down fat. The study participants who drank either 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks significantly lowered their body weight, BMI, visceral fat and waist circumference.
While the rumors about your body burning more calories when you drink cold substances are a bit spurious, it's true that drinking lots of water can help speed up weight loss. One study found that drinking two cups of water increased subjects' metabolism by 30% for 30 to 40 minutes. Experts warn that the effect is "very, very small", but combining it with all of these other metabolism boosters may help you get the results you seek.
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Photo: dave fayram, dan zen, oceanaris, everjean